AJ Hill Continues to Gain Ground during Illinois Races
By Jessica Jenkins
After more than a month of not being behind the wheel, AJ Hill was more than ready to get back on track at Jacksonville Speedway. Friday in Jacksonville, IL marked the start of two days with the POWRi series that continued into Saturday farther North at Spoon River Speedway.
With a focus on getting a decent finish and more seat time in the D2 midget series, Hill returned to Quick Racing's D33 machine. Slotting into a seventh place starting spot in the heat race, he moved up to sixth a few laps in and began to hunt down the top five. Just before a caution waved, the driver from Peoria began to defend his position and fought hard to successfully keep it. Restarting sixth, the position was snatched from him and he did all he could to take it back before the checkered waved. That seventh place finish turned into an inside row four starting spot for the Feature. Two competitors slipped by Hill at the start, but he utilized the high line through the first couple corners to race past two cars, including second place in points. The orange and black car began chasing down the points leader during the next few laps as those behind him also began catching up. Racing from the middle to high grooves, he once more was catching up to the soon-to-be series champion as a spirited battle well ahead of them was waged for the lead. When the checkered flag fell, Hill had a sixth place finish to his credit.
The next night Hill raced closer to home at the Speedway he grew up running go-karts at in Canton, IL. With POWRi D2 midgets not in appearance, he instead moved up to the National midget division and was given the fourth position to start his heat race. Matching himself against the higher powered National midgets, he capped off the first heat with seventh place. With more confidence heading into Spoon River than he had at Jacksonville a night earlier, the 28 year old took the Feature's green flag in 19th. Hill stuck in that position for the first handful of laps before beginning to move up and entrench himself in a battle with some of the National series regulars. On the second restart of the race he was in sixteenth and keeping a close eye on his gauges. A few laps past halfway he pulled off track as a mechanical problem brought an early end to the night. Back in the pits the problem was diagnosed, but Hill and car owners Jeff and Jill Davis were upbeat about how competitive he was against the bigger teams.
Overall it was a decent weekend as Hill continues to accrue laps and experience in his second season of racing midgets. It could not be done without support from Steve Thomas Racing, K1 Racegear, Bell Helmets, Jeff and Jill Davis, Honda Powered Jim Stewart Engines in Indianapolis, Engler Injections, Schoenfeld Headers, Triple X chassis and Super Shox. Hill's next race is still TBD, so stay tuned to his Facebook fan page @AJHillRacing33 and check back for pictures from Jacksonville and Spoon River, as well as his previous races!